Rowlands Castle post office boss faked accounts to hide huge loss

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A WORKER who faked account details in a bid to conceal almost £10,000 of losses at a post office has been spared jail.

Lynette Hutchings falsified balances at Rowlands Castle sub-post office to hide losses after a new computer system was installed.

The 56-year-old maintains that the problems started when the new Horizon system was set up at the branch, and there was no real loss.

But she admitted falsifying the post office’s accounts and entering incorrect figures on the system to cover up discrepancies.

Hutchings’ web of deceit was uncovered when the post office was flagged in a call to bosses suggesting a cash surplus at the branch.

Hutchings – then the postmistress – was asked to return £30,000 the next day but returned £14,000 instead.

A full audit ordered to probe the discrepancy revealed losses totalling £9,743.76 and Hutchings was arrested.

Portsmouth Crown Court heard Hutchings, of Ingledene Close, Bedhampton, never intended to gain financially from her crime.

Lucia Whittle-Martin, defending, said: ‘It would be Mrs Hutchings’ contention always there was no loss, that it was the computer system that went wrong.’

She added: ‘She accepts that she shouldn’t have indeed entered figures that were wrong, she should have pushed the point, but she wanted the post office to continue, partly because the community continued to benefit and, I suppose it must follow, so that she continued to have a job.’

Hutchings, who has no previous convictions, admitted one charge of false accounting between January 2010 and March 2011.

She pleaded guilty on the basis that she did not intend to make any financial gain from her actions. This was accepted by the court.

Hutchings was told to do 120 hours of unpaid work.

Recorder James Watson QC, sentencing, said: ‘It’s a tragedy in which she seems to have behaved in a way which rejects everything else she stood for and lived by in the past.’

He added: ‘This is a tragic case.

‘You have pleaded guilty, I accept, to the alternative count of false accounting.

‘The Crown, whilst maintaining that there is a net loss in the order of £9,743, the precise amount of any benefit which you may have derived is not clear.

‘The basis of your plea which was accepted on the last occasion was that you did not take or intend to take any money for yourself.’